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Alumni Profiles

Anita Bergsma-Smith

Anita  Bergsma-Smith

Continuing & Professional Studies
Year of Graduation: 2010
Program: Leadership Skills

On the Ball
Anita Bergsma-Smith gives children around the world a chance to play soccer

Anita Bergsma-Smith remembers the moment when it all came together: during a visit to Ethiopia, she distributed soccer equipment on behalf of her non-profit, Chance to Play. She watched the first child put on a jersey and smile at the pride of being part of a team.

“Seeing the kids running around the neighbourhood, giving each other high fives because of their uniforms, really put the parts together for me,” says Bergsma-Smith, founder and executive director of Chance to Play. “It’s the impact of what Canadians are doing here and how that’s helping the young adults in different areas globally to form a sense of unity.”

Chance to Play brings donated soccer equipment to children around the world who may not otherwise get the chance to participate in the sport. From Sierra Leone to Malawi, Bergsma-Smith’s organization has contributed soccer uniforms, balls, jerseys and cleats.

It was Sheridan’s business management program that set Bergsma-Smith upon this path in 2010.

“The theoretical and practical elements of the program were key to me starting up Chance to Play,” she says, remembering professors such as Joe Henry, who still keeps in touch.

Using the skills that she learned in business and volunteer management courses, Bergsma-Smith came up with the idea for Chance to Play when she saw the unused equipment from the Georgetown soccer club where she coached children’s teams. She was inspired to come up with an alternate purpose for the gear. “It led me to think about other soccer clubs, and I had a friend who had just returned from work in a developing country. And the idea kind of exploded.”

At the time, Bergsma-Smith was working as a senior campaign support representative for World Vision Canada, and brought that experience to her new idea.

“Soccer is so universal. It brings people from all four corners of the globe together which is the most powerful tool in our world,” she says. “Regardless of ethnic background, religion, or where you live, one ball has the power to bring people together to create change and enable children and youth to be leaders in their community, region and country.”

Since Bergsma-Smith started Chance to Play in 2011, the organization has partnered with soccer clubs across Canada to collect soccer uniforms and equipment.

So far, $200,000 of soccer products has been collected and the list of countries scheduled for donation has expanded, including Tanzania, Philippines, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and even some communities in Canada. Bergsma-Smith has travelled around the world, from Colombia to Ethiopia, spreading the joy of sport and teamwork. “Every year, we bring it to a new level,” she says. “It’s a real ripple effect.”

Chance to Play’s impact around the globe

• Toronto - 20 soccer balls and 20 pairs of cleats donated to a children's soccer program.

• Sierra Leone - 300 set of soccer uniforms, 150 soccer balls, 50 goalie jerseys and gloves, 100 shin guards and 100 cleats to children and youth soccer programs in various communities.

• Dominican Republic - 150 pairs of cleats to soccer programs for children and youth in various schools and communities.

• Ottawa - 75 pairs of cleats and 75 soccer balls for youth programs.

• Haiti - organizing a shipment 50 sets of uniforms, cleats, soccer balls and goalie gear.

• Malawi - 200 sets of uniforms, soccer balls, goalie gear to an orphanage/school.